December 7, 2012

And so we have staggered into Top 10 Lists season. The city’s media elite have descended into a three week orgy of holiday parties and nog-hangovers, forcing the rest of us to spend our quiet moments wading through a mire of lazy critical analysis. That movie you saw the poster for but didn’t get around to seeing—was it better than the one you saw all the TV spots for, but didn’t get around to seeing? Of these ten books you’ve never heard of, which was the most transcendent? Here are ten plays that have already closed—which one are you most happy you didn’t see?

These questions and more will be posed this month, in every magazine you subscribe to and every website you read. Taken together, they present a deadly bland critical gruel which should be scraped into the trashcan on top of last week’s “Holiday Gift Guide Spectacular.”

But as bad as end of year lists are, none approaches the crushing tedium of the Oscar build-up. It’s started already, as sidebars in the yearly film wrap-ups, but soon it will metastasize, gobbling up the Times arts section like kudzu. The emphasis on Oscar horse race coverage has always baffled me, but in the last few years, since I’ve stopped caring about the awards, it has become torture.

What makes Oscar horse race coverage so asinine is that there’s no data. It’s election coverage with no polls, a campaign with no campaign stops. Each year, the storyline is nothing more than “Movie companies want awards.” Their tactics are unchanging—make middlebrow serious films and promote the hell out of them. There are no ideals at stake, no characters to root for, no reasons to care who wins. It’s as though spring training were four months long, and the regular season only lasted one day.

I am comfortable with the fact that, even though no one really likes the Oscar telecast, people will still tune in. When I was a kid, I lost my shit for Oscar night. It was one of my favorite days of the year—four or five hours, just about movies! What could be better? That I’ve lost interest in the telecast itself makes me sad, but it’s just a part of growing older. But to be subjected to endless predictions of what will happen on February 24—predictions made without a shred of supporting evidence—is worse than boring. It’s sheer agony.

Awards season isn’t a race. It’s a standstill—and there’s no better reason to look forward to March.

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